I saw Prometheus over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it. There have been many overly critical reviews going around, so perhaps this can function as a dissent. In addition to suspending your sense of disbelief (something necessary for engaging with any work of fiction), you must also be willing to accept a story which can support multiple interpretations, as not everything is spelled out. If you don’t like any kind of symbolism or theme in movies, this is not the movie for you. If you are irritated by characters that go to investigate dark hallways alone in horror movies, this is not the movie for you.
Some of the characters made bad (even stupid) decisions. Many reviews I have read latched onto these plot elements as flaws in the movie. However, people can be stupid, vain, greedy creatures who don’t necessarily think things through, even when they are spending trillion dollar space ship budgets (and this is when they don’t need to make split-second decisions). Consider Christopher Columbus spending Queen Isabella’s money (and all the other explorers that were not as successful). And speaking about some of the mercenaries, what kind of person rents their life to a megacorporation and risks death in a two-year suspended animation in order to make some money? Apparently, some people are only satisfied with stories about people who always make smart decisions (see The Alexandrian’s take, for example).
That being said, there were some problems with characterization in the movie. It was hard to feel sympathy for many of the characters, and some motivations were not terribly clear, especially for Charlize Theron’s corporate ice queen. Why was she there? What did she hope to get out of the mission? And, the captain’s final action. The motivation did not feel authentic to me for the captain, and it felt even less so for his subordinates, who, as far as I could tell from what came beforehand, were basically just hired technicians.
It is possible that Prometheus is one of the better cinematic adaptations of Lovecraft that has yet been produced, despite the fact that it is not directly based on any Lovecraft story. It is certainly more in the spirit of Lovecraft than either Alien or Aliens. I would also add that many of Lovecraft’s protagonists also make “stupid” decisions, and that this is part of the point. Humans tamper with an unknown and dangerous cosmos. To quote from Joe the Lawyer’s list of D&D rules broken by characters in this movie: “Never trust the unknown. Everything in the universe is fucking hostile.”
There are a few minor problems of pacing. I could have done without the entire section near the beginning depicting the android teaching himself about human culture while everyone else was in stasis on the ship. I feel like more mileage could have been gotten from the exploration of the alien ruins. And the writing was not spectacular, though I didn’t feel like it was bad enough to negatively affect the rest of the movie.
I can’t say for certain that the makers of Prometheus consciously meant to allude to Dungeons & Dragons, but there certainly seemed to be a number of references. For example (paraphrasing from memory here), near the beginning there is the following dialogue: “Before the adventure begins, Ms. Vickers would like to speak to you.” There is a “skull mountain” vista which looked like it was straight out of Holmes. I suppose these could just be coincidences. Also, the mapping robots. All I could think of here was that this is a DM with players who clearly don’t like mapping. Did I mention that the entire plot revolves around what is essentially an alien megadungeon?
In total, I think the visual power of this movie is enough to carry it for a viewer that appreciates such things. The score was good too, in an unobtrusive sort of way (I generally don’t like scores that call too much attention to themselves, with the exception of Kubrick, but then all bets are off with Kubrick anyways). And, if you play D&D-style adventure games about exploring dungeons, you will see a lot in Prometheus that is familiar, and probably get some ideas from it too (I certainly did).
|Holmes cross section, just because|